After winning their first World Series in 108 years, the Chicago Cubs enter the season as the favourite in the National League. However, four other teams have betting odds inside of 10/1, so this could be a very competitive race.
The Chicago Cubs (+175) have a set of young infielders in Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, who are all just hitting their prime. But can they handle the pressure of being the defending champions?
With a pitching staff that’s led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals (+500) have the talent to contend. Bryce Harper is coming off a down year, but he should bounce back. The Nationals continue to produce contending rosters that fall short in the playoffs. They’ve had three NLDS exits in the last five seasons.
The Los Angeles Dodgers (+500) are also looking to get over the hump in the postseason. They dealt with a slew of injuries last season, but still managed to win the National League West. If pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, and infielder Adrian Gonzalez stay healthy, they should win over 90 games again.
If everything goes right, the San Francisco Giants (+600) should push the Dodgers in the West. Led by Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore, their starting rotation should be strong. However, their bullpen raised some concerns last season. As for the lineup, their infield looks good, but there’s uncertainty in the outfield where Hunter Pence and Denard Span are the projected starters.
The New York Mets (+800) lead a short list of sleepers. They have the pitching to win it all, but they struggle generating runs. They finished last season 25th in batting average and 26th in runs scored. Their rotation has the chance to be one of the best in the majors, with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey – if he’s healthy. But will the offense be able to hold up their end of the bargain?
Last season, the St. Louis Cardinals (+1100) missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010. They added Fowler to the lineup and Brett Cecil to the bullpen, but the rotation has to prove their worth. Carlos Martinez is rock-solid, but Lance Lynn (Tommy John), Michael Wacha (shoulder) and Adam Wainwright (Tommy John) have all dealt with serious injuries in recent years. This team’s playoff hopes are pinned on their health.
Since 2013, only four teams have won more games than the Pittsburgh Pirates (+2000). However, they saw a huge dip in their win total from 2015 (98) to 2016 (78). Was last season a bump in the road, or a trend? If they’re to succeed, they’ll need a rebound season from outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Between 2012-15, the 2013 NL MVP hit .313 with 100 homeruns and 76 steals. Last year, he had just 24 homeruns and six steals while batting .256. He’s crucial to the Pirates’ success.
*Odds as of March 24, 2017